27 March 2009

LIKE 2 - The Economic Crisis and the Age of Uncertainty

The talk at the RSA was billed as "The Economic Crisis and the Age of Uncertainty" and promised a debate on the recent failure of finance experts and the validity of the wisdom of crowds and offered us four leading commentators, Don Tapscott, Andrew Keen, Dan Hind and Professor Lord Eatwell.

What we actually got was four speakers on various aspects of the topics who tended to promote their won point of view rather than respond to others'. That said, there was some debate and some contention and it proved to be an interesting event.

Don Tapscott, the author of Wikinomics, opened with a keynote presentation which summarized the theory behind his book. As usual in these events, I made just a few notes of the points that grabbed me, either as truisms or as something to stew over.

Top students do not attend lectures as their professors are not the experts and the real experts are on the web.

We have moved to an era of mass co-operation where the web has lowered the cost of collaboration to the extend that the traditional role of an organization has gone, i.e. self organization is the new paradigm.

The four principles are Peering, Openness, Sharing and Acting Globally.

The three respondents then spoke in turn before some sort of debate started. Again, some interesting points were made.

The economists and statisticians built the guns (the CDOs etc) that the bankers fired that killed the economy. Who is the victim of this crime and who is looking for the culprits?

Kids playing with the new technologies may look smarter but there is nothing to show that they are, e.g. they are not solving any of today's problems.

Governments also play in these markets and are limited by what they want to do (e.g. they want London to succeed as a financial centre) and by what they can do (limiting availability of mortgages would be very unpopular).

How do we educate the public to recognise experts, particularly when the media likes to present the uninformed view of "the man in the street"?

The main area of contention that arose was between Dan Tapscott, who thought that openness and transparency could cure many of the problems, and Professor Lord Eatwell who said that openness does not solve complexity. Professor Lord Eatwell is right!

Also as usual at these events it is the conversation that follows in the bar afterwards that makes the evening great by cementing some of the ideas and exploring others with other people excited by the topic.

I was very lucky to meet up with some members of the foundling London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE), some of who I had met at previous Gurteen Knowledge Cafes. The six of us went down to the RSA bar where a lively conversation was had. We were joined for the last part by Dan Tapscott which gave him another opportunity to tell some of his stories without really listening to what we had to say about them.

The RSA bar closed at some unreasonably early hour so we moved on The Coal Hole on The Strand where firm plans were made for the development of LIKE. I am sure that I was allocated some actions and I wait with interest for the notes from the meeting to find out what they were!

So, even though the debate element of the main event was somewhat limited, it proved to be yet another excellent Knowledge Management evening and the prospect of the new LIKE network is really exciting too.

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